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The time John, Paul, George and Ringo took a ‘trip’ to buy a (fascist) fantasy island
08.15.2014
06:38 am

Topics:
History
Music

Tags:
The Beatles
Magic Alex

gree67beat.jpg
 
The Summer of Love 1967: John Lennon was tired of Britian, tired of living a life in public, tired of the relentless clamor of fans, and the dreary British weather.

The Beatles had stopped touring in 1966 and were now focusing their energies on being a studio band. Lennon wanted some peace and quiet—somewhere he could have a life of privacy.

At a meeting The Beatles held to discuss plans for their next film The Magical Mystery Tour in July 1967, Lennon raised the suggestion of the band buying a Greek island for them all to live on. As Lennon said at the time:

We’re all going to live there, perhaps forever, just coming home for visits. Or it might just be six months a year. It’ll be fantastic, all on our own on this island. There some little houses which we’ll do up and knock together and live communally.

They would build four villas on the island to provide accommodation for The Beatles and their families. An entertainment complex and a recording studio would be built in the middle, and there would also be homes for staff and friends.
 
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Amusingly, the idea may have been inspired by Gerry Anderson’s kids puppet series Thunderbirds, where the fictional Tracy family lived on a specially altered island from which they operated. The Beatles had lived together before when learning their trade in Hamburg, and of course, memorably on screen in Help!, where they shared a home in four connected houses.

According to Beatles publicist Derek Talyor in his autobiography 20 Years Adrift:

The four Beatles would have their network at the centre of the compound: a dome of glass and iron tracery not unlike the old Crystal Palace over the mutual creative/play area, from which arbours and avenues would lead off like spokes from a wheel to four vast and incredibly beautiful separate living units. In the outer grounds, the houses of the inner clique: Neil (Aspinall), Mal (Evans), Terry (Doran) and Derek, complete with partners, families and friends…

Lennon may also have been talked into it by Yanni Alexis Mardas, better known as Magic Alex, the Greek electronics whizzkid who impressed Lennon with his Kinetic Light Sculptures at the Indica Gallery. As Paul McCartney later said in a biography by Barry Miles’ Many Years From Now:

Alex invited John on a boat holiday in Greece, and we were all then invited. There was some story of buying a Greek island or something. It was all so sort of abstract but the first thing we had to do is go to Greece and see if we even liked it out there. The idea was get an island where you can just do what you want, a sort of hippie commune where nobody’d interfere with your lifestyle.

I suppose the main motivation for that would probably be that no one could stop you smoking. Drugs was probably the main reason for getting some island, and then all the other community things that were around then… it was drug-induced ambition, we’d just be sitting around: “Wouldn’t it be great? The lapping water, sunshine, we’d be playing. We’d get a studio there. Well, its possible these days with mobiles and…” We had lots of ideas like that. The whole Apple enterprise was the result of those ideas.

The plan was serious enough for Alex to strike a deal with Greek government giving The Beatles diplomatic immunity—this allowed the band to carry drugs into the country. As part of the deal to obtain diplomatic immunity, the Fab Four had to pose for pictures for the Ministry of Tourism, this was arranged without the band’s knowledge.
 
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H/T Beatles Bible & All Things Beatles
 
More fantasy island and Beatles holiday snaps, after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Miles Davis and John Lennon were shit at basketball
08.14.2014
09:32 am

Topics:
History
Pop Culture

Tags:
John Lennon
Miles Davis


Miles smiles. The Lennons look on.

John Lennon and Miles Davis shooting a game of H-O-R-S-E and both failing miserably. Lennon is particularly bad, missing the backboard, even, but any commenters blaming his lack of game on Yoko will be banned from DM for life!

A crappy looking version of this has made the Internet rounds for a while, but it was so blurry that it was too hard to watch and ultimately uninteresting considering what’s actually there under the layers of VHS video murk. Here’s a superior version where you can actually see what’s happening.

This was apparently shot by Jonas Mekas at a party at Allen Klein’s house in the Bronx in June 1971. Ringo Starr, Allen Ginsberg, Phil Spector, Phil Ochs and Andy Warhol were also said to have been in attendance. The gorgeous woman with Davis is actress Sherry “Peaches” Brewer, who was in Shaft! and later married Seagram’s heir Edgar Bronfman, Jr.
 

 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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White House memo suggests Nixon ‘neutralize’ Johnny Cash, 1970
08.11.2014
10:21 am

Topics:
History

Tags:
Johnny Cash
Richard Nixon
Tex Ritter


 
Richard Nixon’s presidency was marked by a legendarily thick air of paranoia. Dick feared the Democrats—sure, but he also feared Jews, intellectuals, black people, Mexicans and a lot of run-of-the-mill, unremarkable whites, too. In fact, Nixon’s adviser Murray Chotiner (ironically, a Jew and former Democrat), felt that Johnny Cash might upset the Republican masterplan, and hoped Nixon would set him straight at a White House event.
 

 
The fear was that Cash would carry water for Tex Ritter, a colleague and country music legend who was then running for Tennessee’s Senate Republican primary. Predictably, Cash never actually endorsed Ritter, who eventually lost by a landslide. Two years later, Johnny would visit Nixon again to discuss prison reform. The story goes that Nixon requested “Okie from Muskogee,” a Merle Haggard song satirizing reactionary “good ole boys” that Nixon most likely went over Nixon’s head. It’s said that Cash snidely responded by playing a decidedly bleeding heart, anti-war set of “What Is Truth?” “The Man in Black,” and “The Ballad of Ira Hayes.”

I’d argue that Johnny Cash is a complex and powerful figure, and that it’s tempting to ascribe political dissidence to a man who was ultimately kind of a simple guy with a few very meaningful pet projects. Regardless, it’s fun to contemplate Nixon being concerned about Johnny Cash being a potential thorn in his side, even if the threat was only imagined. You can see footage and hear clips of the 1972 visit below, from the Nixon tapes. June even says that they’re praying for him.
 

 

 
Via Retronaut

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Ed Sanders of the Fugs on Marianne Faithfull, Jean de Breteuil, and Jim Morrison’s death


 
News that Marianne Faithfull had copped to her ex-boyfriend Jean de Breteuil’s (alleged) involvement in Jim Morrison’s death sent me back to a poem I’d read in 2011. That poem, “The Final Times of Jim Morrison” by Ed Sanders of the Fugs, gives a concise account of how de Breteuil was (allegedly) connected to Morrison, Morrison’s longtime companion Pamela Courson, and Marianne Faithfull.

A very compressed summary of Sanders’ story follows. In the summer of 1970, Pamela was living with de Breteuil, a French count and heroin dealer, in Los Angeles. When Janis Joplin overdosed on de Breteuil’s uncut shit, he freaked out and fled with Courson to Paris; Pam left Jim a note, “which upon reading he burned.”

“Some time in the several months thereafter / de Breteuil hooked up with / Marianne Faithfull / meeting her in London / while he stayed at Keith Richards’ house.” Around Christmas, while the Doors were finishing L.A. Woman, Pam returned to L.A., telling Jim to quit the band and move to Paris with her. He agreed, and moved into a Right Bank apartment Pam (“now a stone junkie”) found for him “through connections of de Breteuil.”
 

Comte Jean de Breteuil
 
In June 1971, de Breteuil returned to Paris from London, bringing Faithfull with him and displacing Pam, who had been living in his Paris digs. Pam moved in with Jim. She scored pure Chinese H from the count. Jim and Pam spent the night of July 2 watching home movies and hoovering rails of scag. (“In between reels / they honked down strips of the powerful horse.”)

Jim gurgles. Pam slaps him awake. Jim gets in the tub. Jim pukes blood and pineapple. “After considerable vomiting / She later claimed Jim said to go back to bed / He felt better.”

Pam calls de Breteuil and tells him Jim is dead. De Breteuil rushes to the apartment and tells Pam to flush the drugs. Though he is in a big hurry, he can’t help beating up Marianne Faithfull before rushing her out the door and onto a plane to Tangier.
 

 
You’ll like the poem better. It’s got prosody, diction, rich detail—you know, a poem. Sanders’ most famous book is The Family, but did you know he was hired by Glenn Frey in the 70s to write a biography of the fucking Eagles? The 800-page manuscript, still unpublished, should be their Cocksucker Blues, but sadly there are no bootleg copies.
 

A 1968 episode of William F. Buckley’s Firing Line, featuring a drunken Jack Kerouac, The Fugs’ Ed Sanders and confused academic Lewis Yablonsky discussing the “Hippie” movement.

Posted by Oliver Hall | Discussion
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Disobedient Objects: How to make a tear gas mask & a bucket pamphlet bomb
08.05.2014
09:28 am

Topics:
Activism
Art
History

Tags:
V&A
Disobedient Objects

disobjcts123.jpg
 
If you’re in the UK or planning to head over to London this year, then it might be worth a visit to the city’s esteemed Victoria and Albert Museum where there is an exhibition of Disobedient Objects charting the history of protest through the “objects of art and design from activist social movement over the last 30 years.”

From Suffragette teapots to protest robots, this exhibition will be the first to examine the powerful role of objects in movements for social change. It will demonstrate how political activism drives a wealth of design ingenuity and collective creativity that defy standard definitions of art and design.

Disobedient objects are often everyday items that have been turned to a new purpose. But social change is about making as much as breaking. Sometimes designing a new object creates a new way to disobey.

The exhibition covers anti-globalization demonstrations, the Occupy movement, plus a wide array materials from Unions, activists and protestors down the year. Amongst the items on display are a robot that paints graffiti, union strike banners, placards, fake money and Occupy George stamps.

The V&A have also made available activist posters with instructions on how to make improvised tear gas masks and bucket pamphlet bombs.
 
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How to Guide – Makeshift Tear-Gas Mask
Handmade gas masks were an essential response to police actions during the 2013 mass protests in Istanbul. These events saw the Turkish government release a record amount of tear gas to disperse demonstrators. Protesters devised a way to protect themselves with basic materials like plastic bottles, elastic, and strips of insulation foam.

Since 2013, the idea spread and handmade gas masks have appeared on protestors as far away as Caracas, Venezuela.

 
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How to Guide – Bucket Pamphlet Bomb
This bucket-type leaflet bomb used by the London Recruits, a group of mostly young non-South Africans working voluntarily for the African National Congress (ANC) and South African Communist Party (SACP). With these devices, the London Recruits distributed censored information in South African cities from 1969 onwards. The leaflet bombs harmed no one, but distributed hundreds of leaflets high into the air.

This how-to is based on sketch by Ken Keable, one of the Recruits, and is based on the research in his book The London Recruits. These devices were developed by ANC exiles in Britain, who tested prototypes in Bristol, the Somerset countryside, on Hampstead Heath and in Richmond Park.

 
Download your “how to” leaflets here.
 

Disobedient Objects runs from 26 July until February 1st, 2015, details here.
 
See more Disobedient Objects, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Soldiers’ gear through the centuries: So different, so similar
08.05.2014
08:22 am

Topics:
History

Tags:
war
military


1066 huscarl, Battle of Hastings
“‘The Anglo-Saxon warrior at Hastings is perhaps not so very different from the British “Tommy” in the trenches,’ photographer Thom Atkinson says. ‘At the Battle of Hastings, soldiers’ choice of weaponry was extensive.”
 
With the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand a few weeks ago, we’re now in for four-plus years of grim remembrance. That may be the reason for the recent appearance of this grim, enthralling set of pictures, documenting in exquisite detail the exact gear issued to British military personnel for thirteen major conflicts spanning the years 1066 (you ought to know that date) to the present day.

The photos were taken by Thom Atkinson, and some of his thoughts as well as other commentary that goes with the set are reproduced with the pictures—U.K. terminology such as “draughts” has been retained, but some spellings have been Americanized, deal with it.

The pictures tend to emphasize the soldier’s role as an unwilling participant in combat. Drained of anyone’s specific personality and reduced to ordnance and the many other essential items—invariably issued in a top-down fashion by military planners—what remains are the two essential imperatives of a soldier’s lot: to kill as many of the enemy as possible and to survive the weeks, months, or years of panic, desperation, despair, fatigue, hunger, rage, etc., not to mention the major trauma to the body that is a live potentiality at any moment.

No amount of technology can do away with the fact that war always demands that its participants push beyond all extremes: extremes of environment, extremes of fatigue, extremes of risk, extremes of pain. If it were not so—if it were not the case that any combatant (below a certain rank, in the actual theater of war) on either side can die at any time—it would not be war, it would be something else.

Thus the materials and the methods change, but the ends remain pretty similar: tools to chop, tools to dig, tools to divert, tools to stab, tools to enable solace, tools to feed, tools to launch projectiles, tools to orient. And so forth. And that’s why these pictures, aside from Mr. Atkinson’s clear intent in highlighting it, all seem eerily the same.
 

1244 mounted knight, Siege of Jerusalem
“Re-enactment groups, collectors, historians and serving soldiers helped photographer Thom Atkinson assemble the components for each shot. ‘It was hard to track down knowledgeable people with the correct equipment,’ he says. ‘The pictures are really the product of their knowledge and experience.’”
 

1415 fighting archer, Battle of Agincourt
“Having worked on projects with the Wellcome Trust and the Natural History Museum, photographer Thom Atkinson has turned his focus to what he describes as ‘the mythology surrounding Britain’s relationship with war.’”
 

1485 Yorkist man-at-arms, Battle of Bosworth
“‘There’s a spoon in every picture,’ Atkinson says. ‘I think that’s wonderful. The requirement of food, and the experience of eating, hasn’t changed in 1,000 years. It’s the same with warmth, water, protection, entertainment.’”
 

1588 trainband caliverman, Tilbury
“The similarities between the kits are as startling as the differences. Notepads become iPads, 18th-century bowls mirror modern mess tins; games such as chess or cards appear regularly.”
 

1645 New Model Army musketeer, Battle of Naseby
“Each kit represents the personal equipment carried by a notional common British soldier at a landmark battle over the past millennium. It is a sequence punctuated by Bosworth, Naseby, Waterloo, the Somme, Arnhem and the Falklands—bookended by the Battle of Hastings and Helmand Province.”
 

1709 private sentinel, Battle of Malplaquet
“Atkinson says the project, which took him nine months, was an education. ‘I’ve never been a soldier. It’s difficult to look in on a subject like this and completely understand it. I wanted it to be about people. Watching everything unfold, I begin to feel that we really are the same creatures with the same fundamental needs.’”
 

1815 private soldier, Battle of Waterloo
“Kit issued to soldiers fighting in the Battle of Waterloo included a pewter tankard and a draughts set.”
 

1854 private soldier, Rifle Brigade, Battle of Alma
“Each picture depicts the bandages, bayonets and bullets of survival, and the hooks on which humanity hangs: letter paper, prayer books and Bibles.”
 

1916 private soldier, Battle of the Somme
“While the First World War was the first modern war, as the Somme kit illustrates, it was also primitive. Along with his gas mask a private would be issued with a spiked ‘trench club’ – almost identical to medieval weapons.”
 

1944 lance corporal, Parachute Brigade, Battle of Arnhem
“Each photograph shows a soldier’s world condensed into a pared-down manifest of defenses, provisions and distractions. There is the formal (as issued by the quartermaster and armorer) and the personal (timepieces, crucifixes, combs and shaving brushes).”
 

1982 Royal Marine Commando, Falklands conflict
“From the cumbersome armor worn by a Yorkist man-at-arms in 1485 to the packs yomped into Port Stanley on the backs of Royal Marines five centuries later, the literal burden of a soldier’s endeavor is on view.”
 

2014 close-support sapper, Royal Engineers, Helmland Province
“The evolution of technology that emerges from the series is a process that has accelerated over the past century. The pocket watch of 1916 is today a waterproof digital wristwatch; the bolt-action Lee-Enfield rifle has been replaced by laser-sighted light assault carbines; and lightweight camouflage Kevlar vests take the place of khaki woolen Pattern service tunics.”
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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1980s nightclub invitations from ‘Downtown’ New York


Keith Haring, invitation for “Larry Levan’s Birthday Bash,” 1986

It’s… interesting—and a reminder of how fucking old I’m getting—that I’m starting to see promotional ephemera from nightclub events I attended (or worked at) in my… younger days turning up in museums and art galleries. Good thing for me that I have boxes of these types of invitations that I’ve kept sitting out in the garage. Twenty years from now, I’ll spend my dotage as an eBay seller specializing in… shit I’ve kept.

What’s slightly worrisome, though, is how little of some of these events I call recall in any detail. I’ve heard older friends of mine say things like “Well, it was the sixties!” (or the seventies) but even so, the 80s were a seriously decadent (and dangerous) time to be young and living in New York City. I have always lucked out and been at the right place at the right time, I like to think.

Without putting too fine a point on it, drugs were better then—especially cocaine, which, sorry is just a joke now, kids—and super easy to get your hands on. People were more extreme then. As someone who (luckily) lived through it all, it’s very easy for me to see why so many of today’s young people romanticize the East Village or “Downtown” scene—which will never, ever, happen again (at least not there)—It’s because it was better then. It just was. All the elements, including cheap rent, came together then. A perfect storm, culturally speaking.

It didn’t last that long—Manhattan nightlife is all rich kids and bankers these days—but if you were there you know what I mean. And if you were there, perhaps like me, you’re starting to find that a lot of it’s pretty damned foggy by now, so it’s good to have exhibits like this one, online at Marc Miller’s Gallery 98, which specializes in this sort of artifact, to jar our memories.

This mix of ambitious high art with popular entertainment and performance emerged first when two clubs, CBGB and Max’s Kansas City, helped launch Punk in all its many and varied creative directions in the late 1970s. By the 1980s dozens of new nightclubs and bars including Area, Club 57, Danceteria, Limelight, Mudd Club, Palladium, Paradise Garage, Pyramid and the Tunnel consciously strove to be part of the art world by presenting new music, art, film, video, fashion, and performance.  It was a period in art not unlike that of Paris in the 1890s when the cafés of Montmartre helped mold the fin-de-siècle aesthetic. Gallery 98 presents here a selection of nightclub invitations and posters from this exhilarating moment in the 1970s and 80s. For artists and performers it was a golden age with clubs needing to book events seven-days-a-week.  To attract the trendy crowd, artists were recruited to paint murals and design publicity; curators were hired to organize exhibitions; photographers were booked to present slide shows and document events; filmmakers and video artists were paid for screenings; and performers were engaged to make music, stage cabaret shows and host interactive events involving audience participation.  Out of this milieu, stars were born: performers Ann Magnuson, John Sex, Joey Arias, Phoebe Legere; artists Colette, Nan Goldin, Keith Haring, Mark Kostabi; curators Baird Jones, Neke Carson, Carlo McCormick, Michael Alig.  And in the wake of all this activity came the thousands of cheaply produced but creatively designed cards and posters that the artists and clubs created to publicize events in this pre-Internet era. Presented here is a small sampling of nightclub ephemera available through Gallery 98.  All items are for sale.

 

 
Take for instance this invitation for a 1989 party for British filmmaker Derek Jarman at Mars, a four story club on 12th Ave. I worked as the doorman at the fourth floor VIP room (Vin Diesel worked the front door) and I recall working at this party, and indeed still have the invite below in my possession. The thing is, I have no memory whatsoever of seeing or meeting Derek Jarman there, which is weird, because you’d think I would. Perhaps it was because I was outside of the party and not in it, but I don’t know because the invite aside, I’m drawing a complete blank! [I should probably take this opportunity to mention that I was perhaps the very worst—or best, depending on how you look at it—VIP room doorman in all of NYC nightlife history. How do I know this? Because I let every single person who walked up to the rope inside. Every one of them. The sole exception was when some idiot timidly asked me “You don’t want me in there, do you?” and I just silently shook my head “no” and he turned around and fucked off. Had he just kept his mouth shut, the rope would have parted for him.]
 

“Family! The New Tribal Love Rock Musical” with Joey Arias and Ann Magnuson at Danceteria, 30 West 21st Street, New York
 

A Seconds magazine party for the NY Debut of “Serial Killers” by Richard Kern at Madam Rosa’s, 24 John’s Lane, New York, 1987
 

Kembra Pfahler at Pompeii, 104 East 10th St., NYC, 1985
 

Joey Arias and Ann Magnuson “Request the Pleasure of Your Company at a Mad Tea Party,” which they hosted in character as Dali and Gala, Danceteria, 1985
 

The opening night invite for AREA’s “American Highway” theme, 157 Hudson Street, New York, 1986. The club changed its highly elaborate decor every six weeks or so, so scoring these opening night invites was a matter of some importance. Plus, if you were on their mailing list, you tended to “mysteriously” get onto the mailing lists for other clubs.
 

Girl Bar, a popular lesbian night out, one of very few at the time, happened at Boy Bar on St. Mark’s Place once a week.
 

There’s a picture of me, age 23 perhaps, with really long hair in one of the issues of Project X
 

 
James White’s Sardonic Sincopators, at Save the Robots, 1986. Save the Robots was a super sleazy afterhours club. If you were there, chances are you were fucked up, not likely to be sleeping anytime soon and probably up to no damned good.
 


Finally, both sides of a business card for former Yippie leader Jerry Rubin’s afterwork networking parties. He threw these parties at different clubs, including the Limelight, where I was working in 1985, and they were the fucking worst parties ever, with the worst crowd and the worst tippers and these parties simply sucked. Rubin’s networking parties, I do have vivid memories of, none of them good.

Via Stupefaction

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Racist mechanical toys of the late 19th century
08.04.2014
06:51 am

Topics:
History
Race

Tags:
toys


 
This 1882 toy catalog from The Automatic Toy Works company in New York City depicts some impressive mechanical playthings, boasting “artistic designs, strength and durability of construction and elegance of finish.” The document, now preserved by the Library of Congress, is a fascinating record of what constituted early tech toys, and among the models advertised are a drummer boy on a cart, a crawling baby and a rearing bear.

Oh, and a “heathen Chinese.”

Yes, advertised even more frequently than animals or genial human figures are grotesque racial caricatures. Even the seemingly neutral depictions—the benevolent-looking “Celebrated Negro Preacher”, for example—are followed up by a counterpart like “Brudder Gardner,” who looks downright monstrous. There is one ugly face in the catalog that could be white—the politically-charged “woman’s rights advocate,” though the cross-hatching on her face implies a less-than-porcelain complexion.

For comparison, here is a woman at a sewing machine—one who is presumably not interested in obtaining the vote.
 

 

 

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More after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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‘My Name is New York’: NYC through the eyes of Woody Guthrie
08.01.2014
02:19 pm

Topics:
Books
History
Music

Tags:
New York
Woody Guthrie


 
For obvious reasons, it’s easy to think of the great American folksinger/songwriter Woody Guthrie as a lifelong hardscrabble dust bowl Okie, but the reality is, the man called New York City home for nearly three decades, from 1940 until his death in 1967.

Of course, that was at a time when lower Manhattan, especially Greenwich Village, was an urban bohemia, a haven and incubator for America’s artists and musicians. Those times are gone—I’m in NYC at least once a year, and every year, more and more of the Village looks like it’s been eaten by a strip mall. So it goes, but the character of what’s been lost there may be irreplaceable, as a startlingly rapid gentrification is eating into every once-affordable art enclave in that fabled city. I realize that the emergence of an arts district often heralds gentrification—I’ve long lived in such a neighborhood myself, and seen firsthand those kinds of changes, for better and worse—but from an outsider’s perspective, what’s been happening to NYC, especially the northern part of Brooklyn in the last several years, seems unusual and kind of alarming in speed and scope. So these photos of Woody Guthrie’s New York seem to me especially valuable documents. They’ll be part of a 3-disc audiobook set to be released in September, titled My Name is New York. A regular dead-trees edition, by Guthrie’s daughter Nora, has been available for a couple of years.
 

The Hotel Savoy-Plaza, 59th Street at 5th Avenue, Manhattan, at the southeast corner of Central Park. Guthrie lived here with Will Geer, an actor, activist and Communist who’d be blacklisted in the ‘50s, but would nonetheless go on to fame in the ‘70s as Grandpa on The Waltons. This is where the Apple Store is now.
 

Guthrie, rockin’ one out for the shoeshine guy.
 

Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie at Seeger’s wedding, 129 MacDougal Street, 1943. Currently an Italian restaurant, and for all I know it might have been one then, too.
 

Woody Guthrie in 1943, at McSorley’s Ale House, which still exists at 15 East 7th Street, Manhattan. Photo: Eric Schaal for Time Life. Used with permission from Getty Images. WGA.
 

31 East 21st Street, Manhattan, where Guthrie and Pete Seeger lived with sculptor Harold Ambellan in the ‘40s.
 

5 West 101st Street, Manhattan, right off Central Park West. Once Guthrie’s music started making him some money, he moved here, and sent for his wife and kids in Texas to join him. Frequent guests here included Alan Lomax, Lead Belly, Sonny Terry, and Burl Ives. The building is still there, but I’m assuming mere mortals can’t afford to live in it anymore.
 

Woody Guthrie performing in the New York City subway, 1943, a Bound for Glory publicity shot. Photo: Eric Schaal. WGA.
 

A Woody Guthrie paleo-selfie, from a subway photo booth, ca. 1945. WGA.

The audiobook set includes recorded interviews with, among others, Pete Seeger, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Bob Dylan, and totally unsurprisingly, Guthrie’s famous-in-his-own-right son, musician Arlo Guthrie. It’ll also include music, naturally, by Guthrie and others. Notably, one of the tracks is a home demo of the song that gives the package its name, “My Name Is New York.” Here are Guthrie’s typewritten lyrics, and the song itself.
 

 

 

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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‘The Negro Motorist Green Book’: An eye-opening look at ‘traveling while black’ in postwar America


 
For some fascinating insights into the second half (roughly) of the pitiable era known as “Jim Crow,” the Negro Motorist Green Book is a positive trove of information. It was founded in 1936 by an African-American employee of the U.S. Postal Service named Victor H. Green, who realized that with the new availability of automobiles to a rising African-American middle class, travelers of his race increasingly required a guide to navigate the informal and treacherous logic of discrimination. The segregation of public transport made private ownership of motorcars highly attractive to the mobile African-American, and in addition there were increasing numbers of African-American athletes and entertainers who required to travel as a part of their work. George Schuyler put it well in 1930: “All Negroes who can do so purchase an automobile as soon as possible in order to be free of discomfort, discrimination, segregation and insult.”
 
Victor H. Green
Victor H. Green
 
In many parts of America white-run hotels, restaurants, and garages would refuse to serve African-Americans or fix their vehicles. Furthermore, while avoiding public transportation made sense, that did not shield African-American travelers from the ire of whites who might find an African-American with an automobile “uppity” or the like. In short, traveling around in America as an African-American was no joke (for many non-whites, it is still not a trifling matter today, however, the U.S. has seen some improvements in these areas in the last several decades). The purpose of the Green Book was to illustrate where African-Americans could safely travel and find food, entertainment (night clubs), lodging, and other services such as tailors.
 
Negros Barred
 
On the cover of the 1949 edition is a hopeful quotation from Mark Twain: “Travel Is Fatal to Prejudice.” The guide makes frequent reference to the necessarily incomplete quality of its information and repeatedly urges readers to inform hotels and restaurants about the Green Book so that the succeeding year’s information might become more complete. Here are a few lines from the introduction:
 

With the introduction of this travel guide in 1936, it has been our idea to give the Negro traveler information that will keep him from running into difficulties, embarrassments and to make his trips more enjoyable.

The Jewish press has long published information about places that are restricted and there are numerous publications that give the gentile whites all kinds of information. But during these long years of discrimination, before 1936 other guides have been published for the Negro, some are still published, but the majority have gone out of business for various reasons.

 
Negro Motorist Green Book
 
The guide is essentially not much more than a long list, organized by state, of businesses that will cater to African-Americans. An example from my current home city of Cleveland:
 
Cleveland Green Book
 
To read the entries for Cleveland and Staten Island and Providence, some of the places I’ve made my home, is to give these familiar landscapes an entirely new and menacing character.

The introduction ends with the following paragraph, which if you’re anything like me will tear your heart out in its simple, plaintive confidence that better days must be on the way:
 

There will be a day sometime in the near future when this guide will not have to be published. That is when we as a race will have equal opportunities and privileges in the United States. It will be a great day for us to suspend this publication for then we can go wherever we please, and without embarrassment. But until that time comes we shall continue to publish this information for your convenience each year.

 
The Green Book lasted until the Civil Rights era, when ambitious new legislation passed by Congress made the book all but obsolete. We are sadly not in a country where African-Americans have “equal opportunities and privileges,” but we are closer to that goal—there is no Green Book today, after all (or maybe I just don’t know about it?). Someday, perhaps, the existence of the Green Book in the mid-20th century will not be perceived as a statement of the obvious—that the United States can be a very dangerous place for African-Americans—but rather as an outlandish artifact of long-outdated hatreds.

You can download the entire 1949 edition of the Negro Motorist Green Book here.

Here is a brief documentary about the Green Book:
 

 
via Map of the Week
 
Thank you Lawrence Daniel Caswell!

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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